At first glance, one might think that this question does not interest anyone. However, many snake owners would like to know when their pet is sleeping or not. In this article, you will discover the sleep phase of the snake. And you will see, these animals have a very particular way of sleeping.
Sleep in mammals
To answer the question, let’s start by recalling how sleep occurs in mammals. Life in this category of animals is composed of two phases: the vigilance phase and the sleep phase. To summarize, the vigilance phase corresponds to the activity. The sleep phase corresponds to the relaxation of the muscles and the brain. Within this phase, there are two sub-states, which are slow-wave sleep and REM sleep.
Sleep measurement in mammals
Sleep is a behavior that involves a motionless posture and a decrease in reactivity (to noise or movement). The criterion that best defines the sleep phase is the slowing of brain waves on an electrocephalogram.
It is difficult to interpret the data that this device receives during this sleep phase because the structure of the brain in mammals and reptiles is very different. Indeed, mammals have an area in their brain that does not exist in reptiles, called the neocortex. This area is the main source of the waves emitted during sleep, which are totally different from those emitted by the reptile brain.
How Do Snakes Sleep ?
It is very difficult to visually tell if a snake is sleeping because it never closes its eyes and most snakes adopt a motionless position almost all the time. In fact, you have probably already noticed that the snake is not a very active animal. It can stay for days or even weeks completely still without blinking.
Do Snakes Sleep With Their Eyes Open ?
Before asking this question, we must ask ourselves if the snake has a sleep phase during the day. The easiest way to find out is to look at laboratory studies. Unfortunately, too little research has been done on this subject and the only ones that exist are too old to draw conclusions.
However, if we look at a study carried out in 1960 on a Python, we can see that the brain waves emitted during the sleep phase last nearly 16 hours, and can go up to 20 hours after eating. These waves would have the effect of slowing down breathing and heart rate and would lead to a relaxation of the muscles.
With this information, we can say that snakes sleep with their eyes open. Yes, for us, this may seem surprising because we would be unable to do so. But in the snake, it is a completely natural phenomenon.
Indeed, you must know that snakes do not have eyelids, unlike us. Their eyes are equipped with Ocular scales. These protect their eyes and prevent them from drying out. This is why you will never see a snake blink or with its eyes closed.
But then, how do you know if a snake is sleeping ? Well, this question is very complicated, especially since we don’t know what the stimuli are in the snake. We know that these animals react very little to variations in light or loud noises, even when they are awake. This makes it even more difficult to know when a snake is sleeping. All we know is that these reptiles are more sensitive to odors.
With this little information, we can conclude that snakes are probably sleeping most of the time, but it is impossible to be sure because they do not show any visual signs. So we don’t know when they sleep, nor for how long, or even if they have a REM sleep phase.
Some snakes yawn, but researchers have interpreted this phenomenon as a way to collect particles in the air or to reposition musculoskeletal elements, unlike yawning in humans.
Sleep is essential in human biology. However, the same cannot be said for animals as we do not know everything about it. All we know is that the snake is a very complicated animal to study.